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Project Buford T Justice Update: We Hit The Strip Again With More Power! (W/Video)

Project Buford T Justice Update: We Hit The Strip Again With More Power! (W/Video)

Man, I have been getting run over with hate mail due to lack of a Buford T Justice update, so let me first apologize! It has been a wacko summer with traveling and all the other normal stuff that comes with trying to make in in this crazy world so this is a long time coming. The good news is that I can promise you another update next week because I have already done the work necessary to report on it. I didn’t want to leave you hanging again!

So the last you saw or heard of Buford, I had installed the front bumper filler and the car looked about 35% less ghetto than it did before. It was a major improvement, that is for sure. As I have some big-ish plans for performance improvements for this fall, I wanted to get some new strip baseline performance numbers from the car with the iteration of the engine that lived in the car during the early July time frame.

To recap, that engine is a 355ci small block Chevy with a Holley mechanical 650 carb, a Weiand Street Warrior intake, ported and valve-jobbed factory 083 casting Chevy heads, COMP Magnum roller tipped rockers, COMP Magnum pushrods, COMP Magnum hydraulic roller lifters, and a bumpy COMP roller cam. The engine breathes out throug some Flowtech 1 5/8 headers and an 2.5-inch true-dual Flowmaster exhaust with Super 44 mufflers. I had not dynoed the car since putting all of those pieces back together, so I was coming in blind to the strip in terms of expected performance. I did know for a fact that my arse dyno sure did feel like the car was significantly faster than when I got it (but still by no means fast, if you get what I am saying).

I cruise the 80-miles up to New England Dragway on July 3rd in some pretty gnarly heat and laid down 10 passes over the course of the afternoon. I specifically did nothing other than working on launching the car exactly as it sat. I did not mess with tires pressures, pull sway bars, or even mess with timing. I wanted to see what the car would do exactly as it rolled into the gate.

It didn’t take long to figure out that the car definitely grew some nards with all of the new parts and cylinder head work. If I tried to load the car against the converter it would smoke the tires immediately, so I was basically forced to launch the car at about 1800 RPM and roll it pretty gently off the starting line. To give you an indication of how that worked, the 60′ time on my quickest lap was a 2.09. That is glacial of course, but compared to how the car was leaving with the stock tires that were on it and unmodified motor, it was many tenths quicker. The Hotchkis suspension kicks ass at bending corners but is admittedly not designed for drag strip glory. No worries, it is about making the best of what you have, right?

It took me five runs to get the launch good enough to plunge the car into the 14s. On my fifth lap the thing went 14.82 at 92 MPH. That was with a IMG_37822.31 60′ time but it gave me some hope that if I was able to work on that though launch technique, I’d be able to make some real inroads into the elapsed times the car was capable of making. Remember kids, this thing weighs almost exactly 4,000lbs with me in it (according to the NED scale) and it is still packing the factory 3.08 gear ratio. In order to save you some commenting time, I KNOW IT NEEDS GEAR – IT’LL GET GEAR, I PROMISE!

I then dropped the car into the 14.70s with a 14.751 lap at 92.23 MPH. The sixty came down a little more and I knew that I could get more agressive with the launch. It was on the next lap that I jammed the best run of the day with a 14.66/93.58 mph. As the MPH would indicate I had a little spin off the line but the car was right in the fat part of the power band when it hooked up and the thing trucked all the way down to the end of the track. I was manually shifting (on the column!) the car at 5,000 on each lap. The dyno showed the thing was all done by then so it didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to wind the motor much harder than that. There was also the fact that I was planning on driving 80 miles back home after all of this fun, so I wanted to keep all of the rods and junk inside the motor. Plus New England Dragway is great to us and I didn’t want to lubricate their track. Phase II will require more RPM, but the parts will support it. How’s that for a tease?

So for the remainder of the afternoon, I was able to make two more passes in the 14.60s but none better than my .66 effort. I think removing the front sway bar would have really helped the thing hook up, but it was not in the cards during this visit. I will be hitting the strip again ASAP with the newly muscled up engine so when I am there with this combo, all bets are off and so will be the sway bar. If I was able to get a drag radial or ET Street on this car, it would have picked up at least a couple of tenths, probably more. Not being able to launch the thing against the converter wasn’t helping my situation.  So this basic little iron headed engine would be a solid 13-second performer in a 3,000lb car. That’s kind of neat to think about for me anyway.

What did I learn? The car needs to lose weight, gain gear, and hook harder to get to me goal of having it stuck into the 13s before the end of the year on this short block. How do I plan on getting there? You’ll have to tune in next week for that part of the program…but if you want a teaser photo, I will stick one below the video for you to gander at.

Lastly even though I wasn’t able to get the car into the 14.50s like I hoped, the day was a great success personally. Any time you get to spend a Wednesday at the strip you are playing with house money to start with, but then being able to drive your pile 80 miles up, have it survive a beating all afternoon, and then sit in roasting heat and Boston gridlock traffic for nearly 3.5 hours on the way home with no issues, it is VERY satisfying. I’m as ham fisted as they come, so stuff like that really makes me smile! Plus the car sounded bad ass rumbling next to the Prius driving weiners in traffic.



This video is a quick and dirty recap of my day at the strip. There’s some out of car and in-car video of runs being made. A warning is that 14-second cars aren’t exactly awe-inspiring to watch. As if you didn’t know that. 


trick flow


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18 thoughts on “Project Buford T Justice Update: We Hit The Strip Again With More Power! (W/Video)

  1. Beagle

    Probably 50 hp worth of heads and 15 for the manifold, compression and a bumpstick… I’d give it a solid shot at a 13.6

    If you don’t hold out on us.. oh, and it needs gears… grin. Congratulations on a successful trip!

  2. anonymous

    I have been dreaming of building a corner carving malibu or caprice for years. Thank you so much for building Buford T Justice, this thing rocks!! It also makes me drool on my keyboard every time you post an update, which is immediately followed by surfing craigslist to search for a suitable candidate for my own driveway.

  3. Dave Nutting

    You need to ditch that bench seat (With the anti-stab plate built into it) like a bad habit for a set of bucket seats.

    That alone would save you a good amount of weight.

    I’d bet that a set of third or fourth gen F-body seats would with a little bit of work.

  4. Joe

    Well Brian, if it makes you feel better…BTJ is faster than my Mustang GT…although I suspect that if I had some ET’s/Drag Radials I would be a hair quicker….That little 350 sounds snotty…love it!

  5. jerry z

    Get rid of those Soft 8 rims! I had them on my Caprice, went with a set of Centerlines and lost over 100#.

  6. TheSilverBuick

    I can’t count the number of time slips I have in the 14.7-16.5 range with trap speeds in the 103-106 mph range from my sorry ass launches and from the street tires lighting up in three gears.

    Sounds like a fun day!

  7. Arild Guldbrandsen

    Better lighter seats,will help both the turnin and the strip.3,42 or 3.73 gears will also get it moving faster.Actually..14,60 isnt bad for a 4000 pound car with 3,08 gears..guess 3,73 gearing,could move it down in the high 13eens.

  8. Sanford Alexander Moss

    Well you got it all wrong . . . Alfred Büchi invented turbocharging . . . .

    (With apologies to “Crossroads” (1986))

  9. eli

    I love this thing. my brother and I used to race an 84 caprice that he drove every day. it was his wife’s first car, and we yanked the 100k mile 305 for a junkyard 350 and headers. eventually we added some cleaned up 882 heads with roller rockers and a 268xe comp flat tappet. grandma cherry car with a/c, looked bone stock. went 14.53 at 95 with a pegleg rear on street tires, and 13.71 at 103 rolling out and hitting a 100hp shot. the look on the guy’s face in the ram air t/a when he heard the cop tailpipes and flowmasters singing past him at 6000rpm in the grannie rig…. priceless! we had a gang of guys come up to us after asking, “what the hell man?” love it! this makes me want to break it out again!

  10. Adam B

    I had an 86 caprice, clapped out 350 with no compression, vortecs, comp ex274, th350, open 2.73s. It went a best of 14.5. Swapped that engine and trans into a 80 Malibu four door with a 2.14 posi and went 14.2 right off the bat. Same combo, .030 with 10.5:1 speed pros, 1.6 rockers, balanced by Boucher’s in Rowley, MA, 2800 stall 3.73s and street tires, went 12.6. At New England Dragway of course. Currently have another 86 caprice beater and house poor.

  11. nxpress62

    shift at 5500 or more. any small block with a cam will do that no problemo. Yes to nitrous. Nitrous loves awful gears and a 100 shot would definately wake that car up.

  12. eli

    x2. my cam was smaller than yours and not a roller, we found best mph shifting at 5900-6000. course our motor was about 7.6:1 compression, maybe it needed to spin 🙂 watching the video it sounded like it wanted a little more.

  13. Brian

    Not an expert but I was thinking…even if the motor is “done” by 5000, by shifting a little later, you’re going to leave the engine a little higher in the rev range on the next shift. Maybe try some more passes, shifting at 5500?

    By the way, I love this. I had my own ’85 Caprice that I drove in college and kept it as my “truck” afterwards, selling it two years ago. I had visions in college of doing something similar to this – but flat black and Torq-Thrust IIs – but by the time I had money, it was beginning to rot away. Was a very dependable car though.

    Keep it up guys!

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